The law in California concerning premises liability places a duty of care on property owners and managers. This duty of care requires them to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition and to warn guests and visitors of potential dangers that are not already open and obvious. Property owners, possessors, or controllers must exercise reasonable care to maintain and inspect the property, repair any dangerous conditions, and give adequate warning of any dangerous conditions. Failure to fulfill this duty of care can result in liability for injuries sustained on the property, and the injured party may file a personal injury lawsuit for damages.
Compensatory damages in a California premises liability lawsuit may include medical bills, physical therapy, continuing medical care, lost wages, lost earning capacity, scarring or disfigurement, and pain and suffering. Our California premises liability attorneys can provide answers to frequently asked questions regarding premises liability lawsuits in California.
California’s premises liability laws are based on negligence, as stated in California Civil Code 1714(a), which holds that individuals are responsible not only for willful acts but also for injuries caused by their lack of ordinary care or skill in managing their property or person. To prove a premises liability cause of action in California, you must demonstrate that you were harmed as a result of the defendant’s property management, including proving that the defendant owned, leased, occupied, or controlled the property; was negligent in its use or maintenance; that you were harmed; and that the defendant’s negligence was a significant factor in causing your harm.
For instance, if a hotel guest like Tanya suffers from bedbug bites and the hotel was aware of previous complaints but failed to investigate or take corrective action, Tanya may be able to recover damages for her medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and possibly punitive damages.
The “duty of care” for property owners is based on what a reasonable property owner would do under similar circumstances. The jury considers several factors when determining whether the defendant breached the duty of care, including the property’s location, the likelihood of someone entering the property similarly to you, the probability of injury, the seriousness of the injury, whether the owner knew or should have known about the condition, the burden of reducing or avoiding the risk, and the owner’s degree of control over the risk-creating condition.
For example, if a pizza delivery man slips on Tom’s broken outdoor step and files a staircase injury lawsuit, Tom would likely be liable for damages because he knew about the faulty step and failed to warn the delivery man.
If you suffer an injury on someone else’s property, you can typically file a lawsuit against the individual or company that owns, leases, occupies, or controls the property. It is not necessary for the party responsible to own, possess, and control the property – control alone is enough to establish liability. Responsibility for the property may vary based on the type of property, and multiple parties may share responsibility.
Property owners or possessors cannot delegate their duty to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition. Even if a property owner hires an independent contractor to address an unsafe condition and the contractor fails to make the condition safe, the property owner remains responsible for the property’s condition and any resulting injuries.
Likewise, if an employee is negligent in fixing a hazardous condition or notifying the employer of dangers on the property, the employer may be liable for the employee’s negligence. California’s respondeat superior laws dictate that the principal is accountable for the agent’s negligence. Therefore, an employer or business may be held responsible for the employee’s negligence that occurs within the scope of employment.
Possible defendants in a California premises liability lawsuit may include a homeowner, business owner, tenant or renter, property management company, parent company, retail center, restaurant, store, or an employee of any of these. For instance, if a clerk at Sam’s Grocery forgets to clean up spilled grapes and a customer slips and falls on them, Sam’s Grocery would be liable to the customer for the clerk’s negligence and would owe them damages.
DID YOU KNOW THAT HIRING A PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY
WILL GET YOU 3.5X MORE MONEY VS. NO ATTORNEY?
The Insurance Research Council found that:
“Accident victims with a lawyer receive an average of 3.5 times more than those who are unrepresented.”
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON PREMISES LIABILITY CLAIMS?
Accidents that fall under premises liability can take place in a wide range of properties, including government property, parks, office buildings, stores, malls, parking lots, apartments, and private homes. Below are some of the typical examples of premises liability accidents.
One of the most common types of premises liability accidents in California is slip and fall accidents. Slip and fall accidents can occur due to various reasons such as spills or leaks, loose carpeting, uneven floors, uncovered cables and cords, broken or missing railings, failure to close off construction sites, and failure to put up warning signs about known hazards.
Premises Liability in Waterparks and Amusement Parks
Waterparks and amusement parks, frequented by large crowds, are often the subject of premises liability lawsuits in California. The owners of these parks have a duty to ensure that their premises are safe for visitors.
Amusement park companies must provide a secure environment for customers, including safe roller coasters for all riders. Park owners are also responsible for maintaining the property, including rides, queue areas, food service areas, and parking lots. If you sustain injuries at an amusement park, the park may be held liable for damages.
Water parks pose additional risks to patrons, particularly barefoot children. A reasonable water park owner must be aware of the potential accidents that can occur in their premises and take measures to prevent any injuries.
In the event of a water park or water slide accident resulting in injury, the park owners should be held responsible for their failure to provide a safe environment for park-goers.
When injury victims file successful lawsuits or personal injury claims, they may receive compensation for a range of damages including medical bills and expenses, lost wages, lost earning capacity, property damage, and pain and suffering.
Accidents at Construction Sites
Construction sites are known for having several potential hazards, making them dangerous for anyone in the construction zone. To avoid on-the-job injuries, these sites have numerous safety regulations for employees.
However, property owners also have a duty of care towards anyone on their premises. Property owners may be responsible for accidents occurring just off their property but caused by hazardous conditions within their property.
Construction site accidents pose risks to passersby or visitors, especially those who unknowingly walk into a construction area. Property owners may have the duty of providing warnings or barriers to prevent people from entering dangerous areas.
Examples of construction site accidents include:
- Accidents involving cranes
- Electric shock injuries
- Ladder injuries
- Roofing accidents
- Scaffolding injuries
Stairway accidents are often caused by broken steps, rotted wood, or loose handrails. If you sustain injuries from a dangerous stairway, the property owner may be held liable for your damages. Property owners have a responsibility to maintain their property, including making necessary repairs to stairways and ensuring that they are safe to use.
Injuries caused by animals can also be considered premises liability cases. Property owners can be held liable if a dangerous property condition caused the animal to harm you. For instance, if you are riding a horse on someone’s property and fall through a sinkhole that the property owner failed to warn you about, they may be held liable for your injuries.
Dog bite injuries are a common example of animal-related premises liability cases. While homeowners may be negligent in securing their dogs on their property, most dog bite injury cases are subject to specific laws that apply to dog bite injury laws in California. In general, strict liability laws apply to most dog bite injury cases.
Elevator and Escalator Injuries
If you suffer an injury due to an escalator accident, you may be entitled to pursue legal action against those responsible for the incident. Typically, the property owner where the escalator is located bears the responsibility for ensuring the safety of the escalator. However, escalator accidents may also fall under products liability if a faulty product is to blame.
As with elevators, property owners are required to maintain escalators in a safe operating condition and provide appropriate warnings to users. If an escalator is found to be unsafe and causes an injury, the property owner may be held liable for the resulting damages.
If you have been injured in an escalator accident, it is important to seek medical attention right away and to consult with a personal injury lawyer who specializes in premises liability cases. The Law Offices of Louis Gabbara can help you understand your legal options and pursue compensation for your injuries, medical expenses, lost income, and other related damages.
If someone’s finger gets caught or stuck in an escalator, the fault may lie with several parties. In most cases, the property owner where the escalator is located is responsible for maintaining the escalator and ensuring its safe operation. This includes conducting regular inspections and maintenance to prevent malfunctions and defects that could cause injury.
Additionally, the escalator manufacturer may be held responsible if a design or manufacturing defect caused the accident. For example, if the escalator handrail or steps are designed in a way that poses a hazard to users, the manufacturer may be liable. Finally, the person who got their finger stuck in the escalator may also be partially at fault if they were not using the escalator properly or were engaging in risky behavior, such as leaning over the handrail or wearing loose clothing or jewelry that could get caught in the escalator.
Ultimately, liability in escalator injury cases depends on the specific circumstances of the accident. A personal injury lawyer who specializes in premises liability cases can help you determine who may be responsible for your injury and pursue legal action to recover damages.
An accident attorney can fight an escalator accident case by taking several steps to establish liability and pursue compensation for the victim. Here are some ways an attorney may approach an escalator accident case:
- Investigation: The attorney will conduct a thorough investigation of the accident scene and gather evidence, such as photos, videos, and witness statements, to determine the cause of the accident and who may be liable.
- Liability: The attorney will determine who is responsible for the accident and establish liability. This may involve holding the property owner or the escalator manufacturer accountable for negligence or defective design.
- Damages: The attorney will assess the damages incurred by the victim, such as medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and other related losses. They will also gather evidence, such as medical reports and bills, to substantiate the damages.
- Negotiation: The attorney will negotiate with the liable party or their insurance company to reach a fair settlement that covers the victim’s damages. If a fair settlement cannot be reached, the attorney may file a lawsuit on behalf of the victim and take the case to trial.
- Representation: Throughout the legal process, the attorney will represent the victim and protect their rights, ensuring that they receive the compensation they deserve for their injuries and losses.
- Overall, an experienced accident attorney like Louis Gabbara can provide valuable legal representation and guidance to escalator accident victims, helping them navigate the complex legal process and achieve a positive outcome.
Accidents at Home or Around the Home
Home accidents are often overlooked despite being a leading cause of injuries. According to a study, more accidents occur at home than anywhere else. These accidents can occur not only in one’s own home but also when visiting someone else’s home. Home accidents can take various forms, such as burn injuries, electric shock, inhalation injuries, chemical injuries, falling trees and limbs, domestic worker injuries, deck and balcony collapses, drowning, poisoning, and slip and falls.
If an accident occurs in someone else’s home, the occupier or homeowner may be held responsible. The homeowner is generally liable for damages if they fail to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition and someone is injured. Similarly, a landlord may be responsible for allowing unsafe conditions at a rental property.
For example, if Aaden’s friend falls through a loose floorboard that Aaden forgot to warn him about, Aaden may be liable for damages due to the known hazard. It is important to seek legal advice from a personal injury lawyer who specializes in premises liability cases to understand your legal options and pursue compensation for your injuries and losses.
What dangerous conditions are property owners responsible for fixing or warning about?
Property owners have a duty to fix dangerous conditions and warn visitors about potential hazards. They cannot escape liability by claiming ignorance of the dangerous conditions. The owner or occupier must take reasonable care to maintain the property and avoid exposing visitors to unreasonable risk of harm. They should also make an effort to identify any unsafe conditions. Evidence of a property owner’s knowledge of dangerous conditions can include the obviousness of the hazard, complaints about the condition, the amount of time the condition has existed, prior injuries caused by the condition, and inadequate attempts to fix the hazard.
In general, property owners may not be held liable for damages caused by “minor, trivial, or insignificant defects” on the property, but what constitutes a minor defect may depend on the type of defect and the resulting injuries. The types of dangerous conditions a property owner is responsible for depend on the type of property. For instance, a grocery store with spilled food or liquid on the floor is responsible for cleaning it up or warning customers of the spill to prevent slip and fall hazards.
What type of warning or notice does a property owner need to provide?
When a property owner cannot fix a dangerous condition, they should put up a notice or warning of the hazard, giving visitors fair warning of the location and type of danger. The notice should be visible and clear enough to make visitors aware of the danger before getting into a situation where they could be harmed. For example, if someone slips on a wet floor in an office bathroom caused by a broken pipe, the property owner may be held liable if the warning sign was outside the building and not in the bathroom where the hazard was.
What kind of damages can be awarded in a premises liability lawsuit?
In a premises liability lawsuit, victims can seek compensation for economic and non-economic losses caused by the accident. Economic damages may include medical bills, future medical treatment, lost wages, lost earning capacity, and property damage. Non-economic damages compensate victims for losses that do not have a fixed dollar value, such as scarring, disfigurement, loss of a limb, and pain and suffering. In some cases, punitive damages may be awarded, but this is rare and requires proving the defendant’s recklessness resulted in catastrophic injuries or wrongful death, they intentionally destroyed evidence of liability, or they intentionally caused the accident or injury.
If the victim is killed in a premises liability accident, surviving family members may have a claim for damages, such as burial expenses, funeral costs, support the deceased would have earned as income, and compensation for the loss of support and companionship.
Can homeowner’s insurance cover accidents that occur on the homeowner’s property? Although homeowner’s insurance policies may cover various types of bodily injuries that occur on the homeowner’s property, it does not necessarily mean that the insurance company will pay all or any of the claim. To understand what is covered and what is not, homeowners should review their policies, which often have several exclusions, such as dog bite injuries for certain breeds, intentional injuries, damages from neglect, injuries caused by poor workmanship or defective maintenance, or trampoline injuries. Insurance policies may also require policyholders to take steps to mitigate damages and notify the insurance company of the accident or injury within a certain period. Even if the policy does provide coverage, the limits may not be sufficient to cover the entire damage.
For example, a policy may have $100,000 in personal liability insurance, but a permanent injury may result in damages in the millions of dollars, for which the homeowner may be personally liable. Insurance companies generally have a duty to defend and indemnify policyholders, but they may try to avoid paying damages in bad faith or argue that the injury does not fall within the policy, leading the insured to file a lawsuit. If the injury occurs at a water park, and the visitor falls on torn flooring, the park may be liable, but if the visitor was running despite clear signs warning against it, their damages may be reduced by their own share of fault.
Who is responsible for injuries that occur on public property or in government buildings?
The government at the state, city, county, or federal level may be held liable for damages caused by dangerous conditions on their property. However, premises liability claims against public entities have a different set of standards, including a different statute of limitations and a notice requirement before filing a claim. To prove that the government entity is liable for the dangerous condition on their property, it must be shown that the condition existed at the time of the injury, caused the injury, created a foreseeable risk, and that the entity had notice of the condition or was negligent in their inspection of the property.
In California, the statute of limitations for filing a claim against a government agency or employee for a personal injury accident is generally six months from the date of the incident. This applies to accidents that occurred on government property or involving a government vehicle. However, there may be exceptions to this rule depending on the specific circumstances of the case, and it’s important to consult with a qualified attorney as soon as possible to determine the applicable statute of limitations and ensure that the claim is filed within the appropriate time frame.
There have been several notable personal injury case settlements against government entities in California. Here are a few examples:
- $21 million settlement for a cyclist hit by a sheriff’s deputy: In 2017, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy struck and severely injured a cyclist while driving his patrol car. The cyclist suffered multiple fractures and other injuries, resulting in permanent disabilities. The county settled the case for $21 million.
- $14 million settlement for a motorcyclist injured in a roadway crash: In 2013, a motorcyclist crashed on a roadway in San Diego County after hitting a pothole. The pothole was caused by a nearby water main break that the county had failed to repair. The motorcyclist suffered a traumatic brain injury and other serious injuries. The county settled the case for $14 million.
- $12 million settlement for a pedestrian hit by a bus: In 2012, a pedestrian was hit and severely injured by a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency bus. The pedestrian suffered multiple fractures and other injuries, resulting in permanent disabilities. The city settled the case for $12 million.
- $10 million settlement for a family injured in a car accident with a sheriff’s deputy: In 2015, a family of five was hit by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy while driving through an intersection. The family suffered a variety of injuries, including
broken bones and traumatic brain injuries. The county settled the case for $10 million.
It’s important to note that settlements are often confidential, so there may be other cases that resulted in settlements that are not publicly known. Additionally, settlements are not indicative of liability and do not necessarily imply that the government entity was at fault.
While The Law Offices of Louis Gabbara cannot divulge the details of its own government liability cases, here are a few examples of personal injury case settlements against government entities in San Diego:
- $4.85 million settlement with the family of a woman who was killed in a car accident with a San Diego police officer in 2014. The officer was driving at high speed and ran a red light, striking the woman’s car.
- $2.4 million settlement with a man who was seriously injured when a tree limb fell on him in a San Diego park. The lawsuit claimed that the city had failed to properly maintain the tree and inspect it for hazards.
- $1.25 million settlement with a woman who was injured in a bicycle accident with a San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) bus. The woman claimed that the bus driver was negligent and caused the accident.
- $600,000 settlement with a man who was injured when his motorcycle collided with a San Diego County Sheriff’s Department patrol car. The lawsuit claimed that the officer was negligent in his driving and failed to yield the right-of-way.
It’s important to note that each personal injury case is unique and settlements vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case.
If you have questions about filing a claim for damages resulting from dangerous property conditions, or if you want to discuss your premises liability case confidentially with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys, please do not hesitate to contact The Law Offices of Louis Gabbara. Our California-based personal injury lawyers provide consultations and legal advice to help you understand your options. Call us today to
discuss your case: 760-294-0808